A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.
England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.
Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?
Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….
It’s like the author went into my head and took everything that I wanted in a historical romance – things that even I didn’t know I wanted – and put it all in this book.
Strong, independent and intelligent heroine? Check.
Swoon-worthy, sensible and respectful hero? Check.
Engaging romance with cackling chemistry and clever exchanges? Check.
A compelling conflict? Check.
The best thing about this book is that it almost didn’t feel like a historical to me. The themes in this book felt so relevant even in this age – be it women rights, class system or politics.
The cover and the synopsis simply doesn’t do justice to the brilliance of the debut author. This isn’t a lighthearted fare that requires suspension of belief. Nor is it your run-of-the-mill romance between a duke and a damsel. No. It’s a clever romance with two adults who are mature, sensible and very much self-aware. And the setting only adds to the charm of the book.
I absolutely loved the two main characters. Anna is my ideal heroine. Sebastian is the perfect blend of charming and sensible. Their chemistry was off the charts.
The book is set in 1879, during the suffrage movement, when women were fighting for their property rights and Oxford university opened its doors to women. The heroine Anna has little to nothing in her name, living under the roof of her cousin. She knows only an education can help her. She decides to enroll in Oxford, with a scholarship in exchange of being a suffragist.
Sebastian is a duke whose goal in life is to restore his ducal legacy back to its glory. The queen Victoria’s favorite, he can only say yes when she asks him to be an advisor to the conservative Tory party, ahead of the election. The last thing he needs is another scandal, after his divorce, with everyone expecting him to remarry a proper damsel soon. His only fear in life is falling off his horse and dying one day before producing an heir.
In other words, they couldn’t be any more opposites. The attraction they feel for each other is beyond physical. But a love between them is as forbidden as can be. And both of them know it. This is what makes the romance all the more delicious. I devoured scenes with them together. Both of them also have substantial backstories, which the author uses effectually. Her writing is impressive. I’m certainly excited to read her future books.
These days it’s hard to come across romances which make you ache for the main characters to get a happy ending. Add to that the relevant themes and social issues explored by the debut author, and this is one of the best reads of the year for me.